Antarctica is a place of contrasts. On our last day exploring the White Continent, we pulled into Paradise Bay where we found an array of ice sculptures floating in still, emerald waters. Pure snowflakes drifted down throughout the morning, too lightweight to disturb the beautiful reflections on the dark sea surface. The conditions here are typical, and Almirante Brown Station is a frequented refuge for visitors and residents alike. Zodiac cruising allowed us to immerse ourselves in this peaceful place. We paused to enjoy up-close encounters with Weddell seals, nesting blue-eyed shags, and even a rare leucistic gentoo penguin.

From there, the ship navigated a channel of ice in search of a place to make a continental landing. It seemed fitting that amongst icebergs, glaciers and snow-covered shorelines, we landed on a small scrape of rock before setting foot on the continent. Chinstrap, gentoo and Adelie penguins briefly leave their ocean home to find a place here to breed and raise chicks. We appreciate the challenges these persistent birds face each year when they leave their salty comfort zone in the sea, and we recognize the monumental reward found in a temporary pile of stones: a nesting site.